After a long, multi-year hiatus from Windows, I spent some time trying to get my ancient copy of Windows XP Professional installed under VMWare Fusion on my iMac. Why would I waste my time with such an endeavor? Because I want to play with Google's new browser, Chrome.
Now I'll admit - this copy of Windows has been installed on a few different PCs, back when I used to have those things around. But it isn't currently installed on any machine, and hasn't been for years.
Since Windows XP came out in 2003, Microsoft has continued to layer on protections above and beyond the activation scheme. The latest is called "Windows Genuine Advantage". The protections and "advantage" that I speak of are for Microsoft -- not for you, the lowly end user.
Anyway, since my copy of XP has previously been activated, the activation of my fresh install over the internet failed. I tried online chat, but they directed me to the telephone. So, I called the number, and was made to speak out a 38 digit (!!) number into a computer program, that attempted to find me in the system. This of course failed - maybe because it mis-recognized a digit, maybe for some other reason (who knows?), and I was transferred over to a human.
The human only wanted to know the first 6 digits of the 38 digit number, and then proceeded to grill me about my copy of Windows XP, about why I was trying to re-activate, etc. Once I satisfied him with my answers, he gave me back a 42 digit number, which I had to pain-stakingly type into the activate box. And like magic, my copy of Windows XP is active once again, and I am free to install Service Pack 2, and then chrome.
This is exactly the sort of reason why people hate Microsoft. What business is it of theirs what I do with a legitimately purchased copy of Windows XP, on a computer that I own? Their paranoia about piracy has made an absolutely terrible user experience. This is why people are switching to Macs in droves, and why some lame ad campaign is going to do absolutely nothing to fix the mass of defections.